El Rico Habano Gran Corona
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Though it never achieved the notoriety of its sibling brand, La Gloria Cubana, El Rico Habano was actually the first long-filler cigar to come out of Ernesto Perez-Carillo, Sr.’s El Credito Miami factory in 1970.
From its inception, El Rico Habano was a full-bodied, “Cuban-style” blend, even as most American smokers preferred their stogies on the mild side. “It wasn’t setting the world on fire,” Ernesto Perez-Carillo, Jr. once said of the brand’s early days.
After the introduction of the La Gloria Cubana label, El Rico Habano lumbered along as a distant second in sales for El Credito. In 1997, with the cigar boom in full swing, Perez-Carillo, Jr. halted the brand’s production because he wasn’t able to procure enough Nicaraguan ligero to maintain the consistency of El Rico’s potent blend. It wasn’t until 2001 that El Credito was able to reintroduce their flagship label.
El Rico Habano is currently manufactured at El Credito’s Dominican factory, using a sungrown Ecuador Sumatra wrapper and Nicaraguan binder and filler.
The 5.75″ x 46 Gran Corona starts with strong flavors of hardwood and a dry blast of white pepper. This dry character immediately suggests this a “love it or hate it” kind of smoke. With a cup of coffee at hand, I love it. For the first half it is powerful and unique, if not terrifically complex. The draw is near-perfect.
On the second half, the complexity picks up with some leather, fleeting hints of coconut and a hard to pin down meaty note. It also gets spicier, shifting away from white pepper and toward a “red” spice you might find in a Joya de Nicaragua Antano (but minus the Antano’s rude bite). It never strays from the woody base flavor that announced itself on the first draw, however.
The burn rate seems fast, but it never heats up. I’ve been storing these at 65% relative humidity. 67% or 68% might slow it down, but I wouldn’t want to sacrifice the excellent draw. Start to finish, the Gran Corona clocks in at 45 minutes.
CONCLUSION: The El Rico Habano Gran Corona is a woody, spicy, powerhouse that won’t suit everyone. You’ll know in 30 seconds whether it’s for you. There’s not much in the way of subtlety; it’s straightforward and strong, but well-aged and without any harsh notes. With outstanding build and even better value — $2.80 per stick at box quantities — this is a great sleeper brand for the experienced smoker.